Fake Chinese bankster busted

Lin Chunping (C), who was given a key political role after claiming he bought a US bank that was later found not to exist, being detained by Chinese police in Wenzhou (June 10, 2012 AFP Photo/China Out)
In a China full of fake iPhones, pirated DVDs and knockoff Louis Vuitton bags, a rice trader has come up with a new angle for falsehood. Counterfeit bank, anyone?

­In a China full of fake iPhones, pirated DVDs and knockoff Louis Vuitton bags, a rice trader has come up with a new angle for falsehood. Counterfeit bank, anyone?

Lin Chunping shot to fame in Wenzhou – a center for private business in China – after claiming he had acquired the so-called Atlantic Bank of America.

The news earned him praise from local officials and media.

People were shocked that an obscure businessman bought a foreign bank and it was a US bank, no less. He wasn't even a banker to begin with," said Zhu Xiaochuan, a researcher at CEIBS Lujiazui Institute of International Finance in Shanghai. "The news ‘must’ be credible because it was in mainstream media. The public were amazed how wealthy Wenzhou businessmen were."

He was subsequently appointed to an advisory body to the eastern city's legislature as a reward for managing to break into the US banking market.

But not only did Lin not buy Atlantic Bank for $60 million as he claimed, it turned out the bank simply did not exist.

In a complicated scheme, Lin issued tax invoices valued at more than 100 million yuan (US$15.73 million) through his companies based on false transactions and then sold them to other firms nationwide to reduce their tax burden, police said.

Lin Chunping was arrested in early June over an unrelated fraud.

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Bull market: Fakery rampant

­But the 41-year-old's spectacular rise and fall shows how widespread fakery is in China – ranging from the manufacture of copycat goods to entire institutions and careers.

Last year, officials found five fake Apple stores in the southwestern city of Kunming. They were modeled after the US company’s iconic stores, right down to the winding staircase and the staff in blue T-shirts.

There are other examples of widespread fraud in China. In early June, local press in eastern Shandong province exposed a fake university.

It admitted students who did not score high enough on the national college entrance exam. They paid nearly 30,000 yuan ($4,800) over the course of four years to attend classes at the institute.

Just weeks before graduation, they learned they would not get diplomas because they were not officially enrolled at the school.

It turned out they were attending a private training program that rents space from the institute, wrote the state-run Jinan Times. The program organizers have vanished, the newspaper reported.

Experts point to many reasons for the lack of scruples from the need to be hyper-competitive in an over-populated society to an ancient sage who countenanced lying to achieve a higher purpose.

When Lin’s nonexistent bank was exposed in March, he admitted to reporters he had made "exaggerations" to raise his social status and to win future opportunities in banking.

Perhaps he was finally telling the truth.